Catholic Church


St. Cyril of Jerusalem, successor of the Apostle James as bishop of that city, reigned from 348-386 and vigorously enforced the faith of the Council of Nicea (325) against the heretical sects. This lead to several expulsions from his See and several returns. He lived to participate in the Council of Constantinople (381) which completed the Creed which is said by Catholics at Masses on Sundays and Solemnities. In his Catecheses St. Cyril  explains to catechumens and newly baptized Christians the meaning of this greatest of the  Creeds. In the following excerpt from Lecture 18 he explains the implication of catholic, in the article "One, Holy, Catholic Church."

22. . . . Now then let me finish what still remains to be said for the Article, "In one Holy Catholic Church," on which, though one might say many things, we will speak but briefly.

23. It is called Catholic then because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to come to men’s knowledge, concerning things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly ; and because it brings into subjection to godliness the whole race of mankind, governors and governed, learned and unlearned; and because it universally treats and heals the whole class of sins, which are committed by soul or body, and possesses in itself every form of virtue which is named, both in deeds and words, and in every kind of spiritual gifts.

24. And it is rightly named Church [Ecclesia/Assembly] because it calls forth and assembles together all men; according as the Lord says in Leviticus, And make an assembly for all the congregation at the door of the tabernacle of witness. And it is to be noted, that the word assemble, is used for the first time in the Scriptures here, at the time when the Lord puts Aaron into the High-priesthood. And in Deuteronomy also the Lord says to Moses, Assemble the people unto Me, and let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me. And he again mentions the name of the Church, when he says concerning the Tables, And on them were written all the words which the Lord spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the Assembly; as if he had said more plainly, in the day in which ye were called and gathered together by God. The Psalmist also says, I will give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, in the great Congregation; I will praise Thee among much people.

25. Of old the Psalmist sang, Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord, (ye that are) from the fountains of Israel. But after the Jews for the plots which they made against the Saviour were cast away from His grace, the Saviour built out of the Gentiles a second Holy Church, the Church of us Christians, concerning which he said to Peter, And upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And David prophesying of both these, said plainly of the first which was rejected, I have hated the Congregation of evil doers; but of the second which is built up he says in the same Psalm, Lord, I have loved the beauty of Thine house; and immediately afterwards. In the Congregations will I bless thee, O Lord. For now that the one Church in Judaea is cast off, the Churches of Christ are increased over all the world; and of them it is said in the Psalms, Sing unto the Lord a new song, His praise in the Congregation of Saints. Agreeably to which the prophet also said to the Jews, I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord Almighty; and immediately afterwards, For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, My name is glorified among the Gentiles. Concerning this Holy Catholic Church Paul writes to Timothy, That thou mayest know haw thou oughtest to behave thyself in the House of God, which is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

26. But since the word Ecclesia [Church/Assembly] is applied to different things (as also it is written of the multitude in the theatre of the Ephesians, And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the Assembly), and since one might properly and truly say that there is a Church of evil doers, I mean the meetings of the heretics, the Marcionists and Manichees, and the rest, for this cause the Faith has securely delivered to thee now the Article, "And in one Holy Catholic Church;" that thou mayest avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which thou wast regenerated. And if ever thou art sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord’s House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God (for it is written, As Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it, and all the rest,) and is a figure and copy of Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and the mother of us all; which before was barren, but now has many children. [my emphasis]

27. For when the first Church was cast off, in the second, which is the Catholic Church, God hath set, as Paul says, first Apostles, secondly Prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of headings, helps, governments, divers kinds of tongues , and every sort of virtue, I mean wisdom and understanding, temperance and justice, mercy and loving-kindness, and patience unconquerable in persecutions. She, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour , in former days amid persecutions and tribulations crowned the holy martyrs with the varied and blooming chaplets of patience, and now in times of peace by God’s grace receives her due honours from kings and those who are in high place, and from every sort and kindred of men. And while the kings of particular nations have bounds set to their authority, the Holy Church Catholic alone extends her power without limit over the whole world; for God, as it is written, hath made her border peace. But I should need many more hours for my discourse, if I wished to speak of all things which concern her.

28. In this Holy Catholic Church receiving instruction and behaving ourselves virtuously, we shall attain the kingdom of heaven, and inherit Eternal Life; for which also we endure all toils, that we may be made partakers thereof from the Lord. For ours is no trifling aim, but our endeavour is for eternal life.


Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL

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